Penny Anders wins Sharp Graduate Innovator Award

Congratulations to Penny Anders, winner of the 2016 D. Gordon Sharp Graduate Innovator Award. As part of her dissertation work in Blossom Damania’s lab, Penny explored how Kaposi's Sarcoma Herpesvirus (KSHV) manipulates host signaling pathways to promote various cancers (Kaposi's sarcoma, primary effusion lymphoma, multicentric Castleman's disease). Penny's first project examined the molecular mechanism by which the viral K1 protein promotes cancer. Using mass spectrometry, co-immunoprecipitation, and immunofluorescence staining, Penny showed that viral K1 binds the gamma regulatory subunit of the host AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK). This result was surprising, because it suggests AMPK promotes rather than suppresses tumors, and indicates AMPK inhibitors rather than activators should be used in treatment. Penny's primary experimental innovation came in her second project, which tested the ability of a KSHV viral protein to cause cancer in animals. She created and characterized a transgenic mouse line that expresses this viral protein in all tissues. These transgenic mice exhibit a five-fold increase in tumors compared to non-transgenic animals, and also have increased numbers and activation of immune cell types consistent with promotion of lymphoma. In addition to aiding in investigation of the mechanisms by which KSHV causes cancer, Penny's mouse model can be used to test treatments for KSHV-induced cancers.